Tuesday – September 3, 2013
Trail Ridge Road
We enjoyed another wonderful night at the Timber Creek Campground in the Rocky Mountain National Park. During the night the temperature drops into the 40’s and during the day the temperature has consistently been in the mid-60’s to mid-70’s during our stay here.
We were having our morning coffee outside this morning, soaking in the amazing scenery of the mountains surrounding our campground. Millions of brilliant green fir trees cover the lower elevations of the mountains, transcending to vast open green meadows at the higher elevations, and then exposed bare mountain peaks are exposed in all of their glory above the timberline.
A cow moose and her calf frequent our campground every morning. Today was no different. You can always tell when she is nearby. A group of campers will gather, at a safe distance, to observe and take pictures of this magnificent animal and her baby. The Colorado River runs adjacent to the campground providing lush green vegetation for these animals to graze upon. At sometime during late morning, they disappear into the forest across the road from the campground. At early evening, they will reappear from the forest and return to the meadows adjacent to the Colorado River to graze.
Today was one of exploration along the Trail Ridge Road in the Rocky Mountain National Park.
This trail is located in the Alpine ecosystem. The trail starts at 12, 050 feet and rises to an altitude of 12, 310 feet. The visitor is provided with amazing views of the miniature world of the Tundra and sweeping views of the park. Alpine tundra occurs above the treeline where the climate is extremely harsh. Fierce drying winds, bitter cold, intense ultraviolet light, thin soil, and a brief growing season let only specialized plants and animals thrive.
Alpine plants are tiny, growing close to the ground. Many have waxy leaf surfaces to resist moisture loss, or dense, tiny hairs, to trap warmth against stems and leaves. Plants just inches long may grow taproots six feet long to get moisture and anchor them against the wind.
Marmots and Pikas make their home within the rocky outcroppings dispersed throughout this harsh environment. They can be seen scurrying about, gathering food to store for the winter. Their high pitched screams sound the alarm to head for the safety of their dens.
This trail provides views of vast open meadows at the lower altitudes and bare mountain peaks in the distance. Some of the mountain peaks still have snow covered fields that have not melted off. We were favored on this visit to spot a bull elk, with a massive rack of antlers, grazing in the meadow, about ½ mile below us. This is the elk-rutting season, so we were surprised to see this bull elk without a harem of cow elks.
This is the highest point on Trail Ridge Road at 12,183 feet. The visitor is rewarded with magnificent views of the surrounding mountain ranges and valleys. Rivers wind their way through the valley floor as far as the eye can see.
This is an overlook that provides the visitor with breathtaking views of the mountain vistas in this magnificent park. It also is one of several 15-mph hairpin curves on this twisting mountain road.
Tomorrow another adventure begins.